- Written by Bil
- Category: Route 66
- Hits: 8377
In September 2011 we rode Route 66 - Chicago to Los Angeles - on a Harley Electraglide. The company we booked through was HC-Travel of Overton (Small place in deepest, darkest Hampshire, just outside Basingstoke) and the tour operator was California Sunriders.
Ok so the picture here is a Nightrod, but hey, which looks better?
Picture here was taken in Doha on Qatar National Day 2010. The local Hog Chapter and Qtel's Virgin Mobile Service arranged a rideout in celebration. If you can't celebrate a National Day with a Hog ride, what's life?
- Written by Bil
- Category: Route 66
- Hits: 2857
5 September - London Heathrow to Chicago O'Hare
We're on it!
Have to admit, it was a bit of a grumpy start, not that Wifey didn't expect it.
Dale picked us up at 05:45 BST. Said goodbye to the kids and hit the journey.
For the first Monday morning after the school holidays both the M3 and M25 where very quiet. Got to Heathrow Terminal 3 in about an hour. Brilliant for any Monday morning.
Then Mr Angry Head started to take over.
Jobsworth at the Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy check-in started to raise the blood pressure:
- You have to check your helmets in. Why? Because you have to! Hmm.
- You'll have to check your camera bag in. Why? because it's heavier than 6kg and might fall and hurt someone. But the bag splits in two. You're only allowed one piece of hand luggage. Why? Because you are. I'm not checking it in I'm carrying it on. Ok then. - How and why did this conversation need to take place? Dunno.
So now I'm calming down. Hand over the helmets clearly tagged as fragile, to the trolley people. More on the helmets later.
Very quick through security, again surprising for a Monday morning. One old man was being quized about his medication. Obviously it triggered some sensor. Bless.
No Rugby magazines in WHSmith, a surprise with less than a week to go to the World Cup. (The reason we're doing Route 66 is that we were originally going to go to the World Cup but the week the tickets went on sale the price for hotels, flights etc in NZ went up significantly - don't like being ripped off, so here we are Route 66ing)
The Servisair executive lounge was full of an oldies tour group. Some talking very loudly down the phone to their friends telling everyone where they were and what they were going to be doing over the Grand Canyon. Lounge was OK. Toilets very dated. But it was better than sitting in the departure lounge.
Boarding very quick. Glass of "sparkling wine" as the rest of the flight boarded. Seats very comfortable and plenty of leg space. However, if the person in front reclined, it was best to recline as well as the seat of the seat, if you get my drift, moved back to increase leg room again. Push back was 15 minutes late due to cargo. Can't have everything.
Food was alright. Chilli beef is what I had. Wifey had chicken in a cheesey parsley sauce whih she enjoyed - must have been good then.
- Pirates of the Caribbean 4 - OK, but half the cast was missing. Not the best in the franchise.
- Hanna - Good, but will what until I see the uncut version before passing full judgement.
- Super 8 - actually very good film. Won't spoil it, but it is ET and the Goonies on steroids.
Arrived at O'Hare 25 minutes early! That is the earliest any flight I have ever been on has been early. More used to 25 minutes late. Stand was at the far end of the terminal though, long walk.
ESTA worked. Very pleasant immigration officer wished us well on the ride. We were afraid he was going to give us a hard time because as we were queuing he gave one woman the third degree. Thought she was going to cry. But he was nice as pie with us. Immigration can be stressful, so a smile and wish for a nice stay does go a long way.
Back to the helmets. Remember the ones clearly marked as fragile? Handed over as fragile? Whilst I was waiting for the checked in bags Wifey went to find the special pick up point. While she was gone the helmets turned up on the carousel with the big bags. Not happy. Won't be checking them in on the way back.
No airport hotel bus so had to take a taxi. $40 including tip was reasonable. Thought the guy was muttering to himself the whole way. Wifey later told me he was on the radio giving traffic updates. Quick and clear run in
The Holiday Inn Mart Plaza starts on floor 15. Check in efficient. Not sure about the breakfast vouchers. Only $20 per room. Pancakes appear to be £13. Hmm. See tomorrow.
Views from the room are simply fantastic.
More later. Just chilling now. Need a beer.
After walking 5 blocks down deserted streets and at least 27 closed bars I came to the conclusion that something's up. Of course. It's the Labour Day holiday weekend.
So, after some wandering we came across a typical US eating establishment that was open: The Klay Oven. OK, so it was more typically Indian, subcontinent rather that Native American, but it was food. And very good food it was to. My Rogan Josh beautifully tender. Wifey's Madras was just right. Garlic nan that never ended. The starter was a mixed kebab and lovely. Funnily, the waiter asked how hot we wanted it. Hot, medium or mild. My man Javed would have laffed. I asked for hot, should have asked for, on Javed's advice, "Indian hot". It was very mild even to an English palette. Obviously marketed for North American tastes. Very nice still when all said and done. Worthy of more than 10% tip.
That's it, end of day 1 knackered and it's only 19:30. Night night.
- Written by Bil
- Category: Route 66
- Hits: 2835
7 September - Chicago
Slept well until 3 am, when I expected the recruiter to call. She hadn't by 4 am, so I called her. We have an offer. Start on 3 Oct. Yippee. Means I can really enjoy the rest of the holiday now. The early morning calls are all forgiven.
Lot of walking today. Had a lighter breakfast just cereal and toast. Hot water received after asking only once. Getting there.
Beautiful day again. So far been very lucky.
Left the hotel at 8 as we were going to buy ourselves hopper tickets with a local sightseeing firm and wanted to be sure we got there in time. Well, we got there at 8:45, exactly where they said, for a start of 9:00. Bus turned up at 9:45. Not a good start. And we should have gone to the first stop we walked past to get to stop 1 to pay?! Anyway it was $35 well spent in the end.
Each bus has a driver and a tour guide. They have a pre-determined route with 14 stops from Soldier field in the south, to Hancock Tower in the north, to Willis Tower in the West. The $35 pass gives you access for 3 days. Very useful.
First stop for us was Down by Soldier Field, The Field Museum. Odd mixture of natural history, anthropology and history. Couldn't quite work out what it was.
Anyway, met Sue the largest and most complete T-Rex skeleton yet found. There was also a 3D film discussing the find and T-Rex in general. Not sure what the 3D added and I was also sceptical about some of the content, but that's me being me. Daughter refuses to watch the news with me anymore cos I have too many opinions. Humph.
Some of the exhibits are exactly what I would like to see in a natural history museum showing taxidermy animals off, showing species families and some contextualisation. Other areas were pandering to the instant fix that yoof seem to want. They do nothing for me.
Had a coffee and a couple bottles of water in the restaurant. Gave a $20 and was given change for a $10. Wasn't born yesterday, just be warned. Server knew that I knew that she knew that she'd just tried to scam me. Bitch. I'm out of work! Until 3 October ;-)
Next stop was Hancock Tower. Little shorter than Willis Tower and a lot less packed. What I didn't like was the way they'd put a cafe right in the corner with the best views back over The Loop to the Willis Tower. Stop whingeing.
Back on bus and last stop Willis Tower to exchange the T-shirts from yesterday, of course. Then back to stop 1 for tour over.
Walked back to the hotel from stop 1 through Millennium Park and the Loop in rush hour. Very busy in Canyonland, ducking and diving through the crowds. Far more regimented than London though, less of a free-for-all.
Now I hadn't realised that I have had a lifelong ambition to visit Chicago until seeing the Honourable J Daley Plaza. It all came rushing back: "It's a 106 miles to Chicago. We've got a full tank of gas, half a packet of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses!". "Hit it!". It's my favouritist film, up there with "Some Like It Hot".
Felt like wandering across and asking for directions to the Assessor for Cook County's office to see if Spielberg was still there. I was giddy. Sad I know, but took me back to being a 15 year-old in St Helens watching a wacky comedy with some of the best Rhythm and Blues artists ever. Daughter thinks she is Aretha franklin.
Back at the hotel there was a huge tour group from Brazil checking for, I assume, Route 66. They all had identical Harley jackets with "Eagleriders" on the back. Roll on, friends.
Dinner was the Klay Oven again. Service not so good...stop it now, start enjoying the hol! We have a job.
- Written by Bil
- Category: Route 66
- Hits: 3206
6 September - Chicago
There's a line in the Blues Brothers regarding the El track.
Jake: "Do they go by often?".
Elwood: "So often you'll not notice".
Elwood was right, but so tired got to sleep quickly.
Woken at 3 am by a recruiter telling me she was to have a call in 10 minutes with the man I was interviewed by last Thursday to get feedback on the interview. Wasn't best pleased. She knows where I am. Still, if the job comes off...
As I couldn't get back to sleep up and out early, 5 am, to watch Chicago come to life. Wandered down the Riverwalk for half-an-hour and back.
Found the Chicago Harley-Davidson shop and Bloomingdales. No doubt we'll be visiting later.
Was accosted by the town drunk.
"If you in Chicago and you from England, you must have money".
I mentioned my money was in the hotel.
"I'm cold and you got a coat," was his response.
At that point my little 'bump of trouble' started itching.
I had gone out in my leather bike jacket. He then proceeded to give the jacket a closer inspection. He noticed the big badge on the back that says TRIUMPH MOTORCYCLES. Then said good morning to me and made a hasty retreat. Does this mean I'm a proper biker with proper biker kudos? Course not, be he don't know.
Got a Starbucks opposite Michael Jordan's Steakhouse (like their steakhouses in this Burgh) and wandered back to the hotel.
Love watching cities come on stream. The slow trickle of people and mounting traffic. The workmen in their hardhats. Rubbish trucks waking you up at the back of the hotel at 4 am - sorry, getting mixed up with France. The fresh produce being delivered to the bars, restaurants and hotels. Hopefully, now the public holiday weekend is over some will be open.
Will just do some photo processing and post a couple of night images shortly. Later.
Shouldn't have worried about the breakfast voucher being enough to cover us both. The breakfast buffet is included, the $20 voucher only required if you order from the menu. So filled up on scrambled eggs, sausages, Canadian bacon, cereal and toast. Light breakkie. Asked the waiter for a pot of boiling water so we could make some tea (Twinnings' English Breakfast). You would have thought we were speaking alien. Third attempt he got it and we got two pots of lukewarm water. Perfect complement to the tea was the UHT milk.
Walked to Bloomigdales. That is Bloomingdales Home. Wifey thought I meant Bloomingdale's first ever department store, i.e. their home store. Wasn't until we walked in and she saw the soft furnishings and cooking implements did it slowly dawn. Quick exit made, I don't think they noticed.
Both Bloomingdales and the HD store open at 10 am so we went to another Starbucks and watched the world go by whilst sitting next to a family from Yorkshire.
Bought a tee-shirt and bandana at the HD store.
Walked past Michael Jordan's gaff again, past Marilyn, the Wrigley Buildings, over Madison Avenue (deSable) Bridge to the dock for an architecture river cruise narrated by a member of the Chicago Architecture Foundation on the "Chicago's Little Lady".
Hour and a half on the river having the waterfront skyline explained was most informative and enjoyable. Trump Tower, Wrigley Buildings, Willis Tower, 4 types of architecture. Interesting.
Stopped for lunch at a bizarre 'French Cafe' about a hundred yards up from the dock. Hot Dog and Brattie mit pommes in plastic baskets, no cutlery and two humungous ice cream cones. Still stuffed as a write.
We then wandered down to Millennium Park, past the Bean and library to Adams, where we start Route 66 on Friday. Along Adams to the Willis (nee Sears) Tower. Took about 30 seconds in the lift to the top of the Willis (nee Sears) Tower, way quick. Packed on the Sky Deck, but views very impressive. I didn't get a feeling of height like I did up the CN Tower in Toronto. Maybe this was due to the fact that the CN Tower sways, and you can feel it. Or maybe it's because there are more tall buildings in Chicago. Puts Portsmouth's Sail in the shade. Wifey finally found a souvenir store so tee-shirts and fridge magnets all round. Won't step on the glass floor they have though. Even I call me a wimp, and I've even visited the the old Pilkington Museum in St Helens where they showed how strong glass could be made.
Then back to the hotel via a 7-11 for some essentials. Not quite as Wifey remembered the 7-11 that used to exist on Stanmore High Street.
As we were walking back Downtown was draining again. The corporate footsoldiers trudging their way back to Suburbia. Started to feel as desolate as last night, couldn't possibly come close. Almost expected to see tumbleweed last night.
Got back to find a missed call and email from the recruiter asking me to call asap. As it was 16:30 here it's 22:30 there so will have to be tomorrow. Bet I get another 3 am call in the morning.
Off to the hotel bar in a bit, too tired to walk far as walked for 7 hours today. Doubt I'll write more tonight so I wish you bonnie nuit.
- Written by Bil
- Category: Route 66
- Hits: 2791
8 September - Chicago
Lie in at last. Hotel really getting busy. Was like a ghost hotel on Monday.
Asked for boiling water this morning and got it first time with some 'French Gourmet' teabags. What do the French know about tea?
Up and out by 9am.
Short blog today as promised Wifey a shopping day so shopping day we had. Walked to Madison and then north to Bloomingdales, well she wanted a bag. She couldn't find anything but I got a nice pair of Simon Carter cufflinks. To add insult to her injury, they came out half price! So at least she got a Bloomingdales bag. Probably their smallest, still she got one. Salesman was very good. Took his time, showed his favourites, was witty, got to know his customer's likes and dislikes, really treated us well. Shows how service can be done without being overbearing. Nice man.
Bimbled across the street to North Face under the Hancock Tower. New shirt for Boy. He'll love it. H&M jacket for her $10 - bargain, but then Topshop and Topman were just opening shop with catwalk ceremony so I suppose H&M had to do something to draw in the punters.
Quick in-and-out at Macy's and the Apple Store and back to the Harley shop for me.
Headed back over the river to Millenium Park and had lunch at the Park Grill under clear blue skies and scorching sun. Handily they had large umbrellas. I had the American Kobe Steak, yum yum, and Wifey had a salad. Well, some chicken and bacon and, I kid you not, half an iceberg lettuce. I also had a 32oz Bass. Could have slept all afternoon.
We then went back to the first bus stop and took the complete bus tour +1 stop. Kevin was definately the best of the tour guides. Funny, sarcastic, bantering with workmen to be quiet as he was trying to talk. Very good. Got our first rain of the trip, hopefully the last. Open top bus, in rain. But Kevin to the rescue with ponchos all round.
Glad we weren't staying at the Hyatt as they had strikers outside.
Did some more gift shopping then ambled back to the hotel ready for registration.
The guys from California Sunrider were just setting up. Will go back at 6pm for registration then there's a talk at 7pm about rules and regs. A little more later.
Ok, so registered and had brief. Met a couple from Oxford and another from Halifax. Bear from California Sunriders is the tour guide. Lots to mull over from the brief. Remember petrol pumps and pre-payment being a bind so expect more of the same. Sage advice about wearing glasses when filling up. Explained echelon riding and stopping to wait when people miss the lights or have problems. Explained the typical order of march. Two rider briefings per day, one before the ride one after.
Brief meal in the bar afterwards and early bed. Am I excited?